Wynoochee River Winter Steelhead Fishing 2022-2023

wynoochee winter steelhead fishing

The Wynoochee River originates from the south slopes of the wild and rugged Olympic mountains and winds its way south until it dumps into the Chehalis near Montesano.

Like all of the Chahalis tributaries in the 2022-2023 winter steelhead fishing, the topic of whether the Wynoochee river will have an open season on it or not, is the subject of significant controversy.

The best way to experience fishing for winter steelhead on the Wynoochee is likely with a guide via a boat, but we will likely spend more of this blog article focussed on the topic of what to expect in the 2022-2023 winter steelhead season and try to paint the picture regarding whether the river will be open or not, though we are expected to get absolute clarity from WDFW on Dec 1st, 2022.

But first:

Let’s take a look at a couple of new features I’ve got up on the blog to help you understand run timing and how many steelhead are returning at the hatcheries

  1. Automatically updating graph of the Escapement Report for the Wynoochee River
  2. Historical run timing graph providing a visual of when steelhead normally return to the Wynoochee River
  3. Steelhead forecast section that attempts to paint the picture of what to expect with steelhead smolt plants, escapement history and other data provided by WDFW.

All of these features are here to aid you in your trip planning efforts to increase your likelihood of success.

Updated Status of returning hatchery Winter Steelhead on the Wynoochee River

Once steelhead start returning to the hatchery and get reported by WDFW, this graph will automatically update, typically on Thursdays.

Historical Run Timing of hatchery Winter Steelhead on the Wynoochee River

One of the nice things about the Wynoochee compared to other late stocks of hatchery steelhead is the earlier abundance. As you can see from the above chart, January is prime time and returns are fairly steady through about early-mid March.

However, the fishing regulations haven’t allowed access to these steelhead in recent years…

Fishing Regulations for the Wynoochee River 2022

Note: Per the 2022-2023 steelhead regulations announced on Dec 1st, 2022 by WDFW, there won’t be a winter steelhead season on the Wynoochee.

WYNOOCHEE RIVER – GRAYS HARBOR CO.
from mouth to WDFW White Bridge access site CRC (337)
All speciesAug. 16-Nov. 30Single-point barbless hooks required.
TroutSat. before Memorial Day-Mar. 31Statewide min. size/daily limit. Except: Cutthroat trout and wild rainbow trout: min. size 14”.
Other game fishSat. before Memorial Day-Mar. 31Statewide min. size/daily limit.
SalmonOct. 1-Oct. 31Min. size 12”. Daily limit 6. Up to 2 adults may be retained. Release adult Chinook.
Nov. 1-Nov. 30Min. size 12”. Daily limit 6. Up to 1 adult may be retained. Release Chinook.
Dec. 1-Dec. 31Min. size 12”. Daily limit 6. Up to 1 adult may be retained. Release Chinook and wild coho.
from WDFW White Bridge access site to 7400 Line Bridge CRC (337)
All speciesAug. 16-Sept. 15Single-point barbless hooks required.
Sept. 16-Nov. 30Single-point barbless hooks required. Bait prohibited.
TroutSat. before Memorial Day-Mar. 31Statewide min. size/daily limit. Except: Cutthroat trout and wild rainbow trout: min. size 14”.
Other game fishSat. before Memorial Day-Mar. 31Statewide min. size/daily limit.
from 7400 Line Bridge to 400’ downstream of barrier dam near Grisdale CRC (337)
All speciesSelective gear rules.
TroutSat. before Memorial Day-Mar. 31Statewide min. size/daily limit. Except: Cutthroat trout and wild rainbow trout: min. size 14”.
Other game fishSat. before Memorial Day-Mar. 31Statewide min. size/daily limit.
from barrier dam near Grisdale to 400’ downstream of Wynoochee Dam CRC (337)
All speciesSelective gear rules.
TroutSat. before Memorial Day-Mar. 31Statewide min. size/daily limit. Except: Cutthroat trout and wild rainbow trout: min. size 14”.
Other game fishSat. before Memorial Day-Mar. 31Statewide min. size/daily limit.
400’ downstream from barrier dam near Grisdale to the barrier dam
All speciesCLOSED WATERS.
upstream of Wynoochee reservoir to Wynoochee Falls CRC (337)
All speciesSelective gear rules.
TroutSat. before Memorial Day-Mar. 31Statewide min. size/daily limit. Except: Cutthroat trout and wild rainbow trout: min. size 14”.
Other game fishSat. before Memorial Day-Mar. 31Statewide min. size/daily limit.
from 400’ downstream of Wynoochee Dam to Wynoochee Dam
All speciesCLOSED WATERS.

Emergency Fishing Regulations for the Wynoochee River

Please refer to WDFW’s emergency rules page for a full list that are in effect until I can get the e-rules automation working fully again.

It’s your responsibility as the recreational angler to know ALL of these rules, not just what is discussed here on the blog.

Forecast for 2022 Wynoochee River Winter Steelhead

Hatchery winter steelhead smolt plants for the Wynoochee River 2017-2021

Note: Smolts planted in the 2021 year will predominantly return as 3 year fish in the 2022-2023 winter steelhead season.

As you can see since 2017, steelhead smolt plants have remained fairly steady.

Hatchery winter steelhead returns from 2013-2022

There were a few difficult years recently for winter steelhead which have been reflected throughout western Washington steelhead rivers, but the Wynoochee has still provided decent steelhead fishing.

Sadly, those 1,500+ returned hatchery winter steelhead in 2021 provided no angling opportunity.

Let’s see what the WDFW biologists are putting out there:

Hatchery steelhead forecast 2022-2023
Hatchery steelhead forecast 2022-2023

Forecasts seem to indicate an above average return year for the Wynoochee hatchery winter steelhead, and perhaps better than what occurred in 2021.

But will we get to fish for these steelhead? Let’s look at the wild stock situation:

Steelhead forecast 2022-2023
Wild Steelhead forecast 2022-2023

As you can see the situation is quite bleak with a sport impact limit of 198 for the entier Chehalis basin…and expected to miss escapement goal by 1486 steelhead. So far WDFW has been within 5-10% accuracy on these predictions based on the 2021-2022 evaluation.

Let’s look at what WDFW has presented in terms of season options:

Steelhead season analysis of options 2022-2023
Steelhead season analysis of options 2022-2023

There’s are ZERO scenarios in the above analysis of options that provides a fishing opportunity on Chehalis basin steelhead…

However…there was discussion at one of the meetings, that perhaps one tributary could be opened if all of the creel sampling and biologist effort was concentrated there. That tributary would likely be the Skookumchuck, but it would certainly mean other rivers wouldn’t be open as a result.

And that likely means rivers like the Wynoochee will be the casualty here…

One Reply to “Wynoochee River Winter Steelhead Fishing 2022-2023”

Comments are closed.